WASHINGTON—Scrap tire recycling weathered rough financial times during the down economy of 2009, but also a number of successes, including a new stewardship law in Ontario and stockpile cleanups in New York and Pennsylvania.
Recyclers faced a crisis at the beginning of 2009 because of a weak economy combined with rock-bottom prices for virgin rubber, though both circumstances—particularly the latter—improved as the year went on.
Tire-derived fuel wasn't suffering as much of a pinch as higher-value-added recycled products at the beginning of 2009, noted Michael Blumenthal, senior vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. Companies that use TDF have invested in new systems to handle the product and also have plans to diversify their sources of energy, Blumenthal said.
In January, Delta-Energy L.L.C. won $2.5 million in grant money under Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to build a tire processing plant in Greene County, Pa. The company, which makes oil and carbon black from shredded scrap tires, said the completed plant would employ 25 to 30 workers and process the equivalent of 1.3 million passenger tires annually.
Also in January, Pennsylvania finally declared victory in its 21-year battle to clean up the Starr scrap tire pile near Williamsport, the largest scrap tire stockpile in the state. Entech Inc., a Michigan-based contractor, removed the last of nearly 6 million scrap tires at the site before year-end 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said.
The RMA smelled trouble in Colorado early in 2009, when the Colorado Senate passed a bill to more than double the state's scrap tire disposal fee on each new tire sold in the state—to $3.25 from $1.50—and use the money to fund non-tire energy research projects. However, that bullet was dodged in early April when the Colorado Senate rewrote the bill to create a different funding mechanism.
Also in April, the Arizona State Capitol Police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety began an investigation of Envirotech Industries International L.L.C., a tire recycling firm that filed for bankruptcy in November 2007. The Arizona Department of Administration also solicited bids from contractors to clean up the estimated 5 million to 7 million scrap tires at the former Envirotech site.
By a 149-5 vote, the Missouri House of Representatives voted in May to extend the state's 50-cents-per-tire scrap tire disposal fee until Jan. 1, 2015, a month after the state Senate approved the same measure 30-2. The renewal bill also increased to 50 from 25 the percentage of the fee that must be used for scrap tire cleanup, and earmarked 45 percent of the money to provide grants for individuals or groups that make products from scrap tires.
Investigators treated a May tire fire at a defunct scrap tire recycling company in Hawkins, Texas, as arson. Fire was reported shortly after midnight May 26 at the Foster & Sons Scrap Tire Service site, and the blaze was extinguished by the afternoon of May 27, after having burned some 150,000 to 200,000 of the 500,000 scrap tires at the site.
After 16 years without a scrap tire program in place, Ontario finally launched its Tire Stewardship Program. Under the new plan, those identified as “stewards”—tire manufacturers, tire retailers, tire importers, vehicle manufacturers and tire brand owners—are responsible for funding the program. The fees range from $2.03 each for solid industrial tires to $365.53 for giant off-the-road tires.
Included in the stewardship program is a system of scrap tire processing incentives designed to have scrap tires used for higher-value-added products within Ontario, such as auto parts, flooring and playground surfaces, rather than shipping them out of the province to be used as TDF.
In June, tire recycling giant Liberty Tire Recycling L.L.C. purchased Texas tire disposal firm Able Tire Co. L.L.C. for an undisclosed amount. Able Tire, which continued under its own name after the acquisition, has operations in Houston, San Antonio and the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and is the exclusive supplier of scrap tires as fuel to cement kilns in Texas.
In November, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported sub¬stantial victory in its scrap tire abatement efforts. Of 34 million scrap tires stockpiled in the state in 2004, more than 26.5 million had been removed and 102 scrap tire sites completely cleared, the DEC said.
Of New York's 17 largest dumps in 2004, 12 had been completely cleaned up by the end of 2009, the agency said. These included all 11.4 million tires from the state's largest scrap tire site, the Fortino site in Oswego County, and all 5 million from its second-largest site, the Mohawk Tire site in Saratoga County.